Thursday, August 17, 2017

Music Review: Great Grandpa "Plastic Cough"

Back in 2015, I got an email from Great Grandpa inviting me to listen to their debut EP "Can Opener", which I did.    Presented as a band with former members of I Kill Giants and Postmadonna, not only did I know why I was receiving the email but I also was really into it because apparently there is a combination of "Former Members Of" that can actually make me listen to music.

Fast forward to two years later and Great Grandpa is back with a full length this time.   I remember Great Grandpa being good, but I don't remember Great Grandpa being this good.   If you want to put out an EP that catches my attention and I wonder "How will they make an entire album on par with this", well, just listen to "Plastic Cough".    Great Grandpa is setting the bar pretty high for a lot of music that I listen to, but in some ways I expect nothing less.

I went back and read my review of "Can Opener" before writing this (And was embarrassed at my use of the word "cramazing") because I like to make sure that I'm not just making the same comparisons every time I review an artist.   I will say that Speedy Ortiz came out in my notes and I named them previously as well, but if it works I'll stick with it.   In ways, these songs also have that laid back feel of either Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" mixed with the "El Scorcho" type Weezer rock.

Aside from the fuzzy rock and big chords you're going to hear a decent amount of words.    I'm not sure there is an easy way to explain this since it doesn't really happen but there are vocals and backing vocals, sometimes at the same time, but also the lead vocals can sometimes repeat themselves where they either feel as if they are on a loop or layered over each other.    It is what could be called in music a "round" but don't quote me on that because I don't remember my music theory class.

While these songs are overall pleasant to the ears and they pick up where "Can Opener" left off, what you need to take away from this perhaps most of all is the lyrical content.   These songs can get stuck in your head, but you can find yourself singing about how it's been a long time since you've been faithful.   It's not a radio-friendly version of catchy but it goes to show you that lyrics can have meaning and get stuck in your head.    Great Grandpa has found that in between area I thought wasn't previously possible.

Download + Physical purchase info:

Cassette Review: Stolen Jars "glint"

There was a time when I would keep up with music that was not on the radio per se but known as being on those "college radio charts" but that was years ago.   I could name the artists and labels but I haven't done that in years-- I've just slept soundly knowing that I wasn't aware of the new release by a band such as Tame Impala.     I am submitted any number of singles per day that have that sort of pop rock sound which reminds me of those albums I no longer spend my time listening to because if you want to know about them I'd suggest visiting some other website and I think you can get at what I'm talking about.

All of those bands I don't really listen to are based upon the reason that they all sound the same and they're all making the same album over and over again.   At first, Stolen Jars gives off that sound of being another pop rock/college radio type of band.    It has that blissful appeal that you could relate to some other band I've long since forgotten about because it's an artist cast aside, that I no longer write about.

These songs have layers.    Right away you can hear complex guitars which put Stolen Jars a step above the rest, but it's just the different aspects of the music which make this stand out and so great.    The thing is, for me to describe this to you is not easy.   There are female vocals at times along with male vocals-- sometimes they are together, sometimes one takes the lead.    There are various instruments outside of the typical guitar/bass/drums and even keys, but I mean, we could think of a band like Architecture In Helsinki or Arcade Fire (See me date myself there?) if you want to get into that "indie rock band with a lot of members" thing.

So what is it that makes Stolen Jars capture such a rare sound?   I'd argue it is not the exact components going into their music (Even though each player has their vital role) but rather the delivery of it all.    A lot of what I hear in here but would be quickly to pass on writing about comes from a song such as "Animals" by Neon Trees and then it just breaks down from there.   But in that sense, you expect songs to do a certain thing-- they follow a certain pattern which makes me not want to write about them but Stolen Jars breaks away from that pattern.

It is also worth noting how much I love the lyrics on these songs.    A lot of thought and effort was put into them and though they do have that capability where you could sing along with them, the fact is a lot of bands come off as being like "Well, what rhymes with this?" and Stolen Jars seems to focus more on the actual meaning in their lyrics than the rhyming and all of that, so it is different than something you might hear on the radio because it is deeper.    Stolen Jars, in a sentence, is that pop rock/indie rock/college radio type of band only on a higher level, both proving that they are a category all their own but also that other more accomplished acts should take notice and realize they could create something more meaningful, such as Stolen Jars has here, if they so desired.

$5 // Edition of 200 //

Cassette Review: Pyramidal "Come Home" (Already Dead Tapes)

For some reason I always think Pyramidal is on Illumnated Paths in the sense I reviewed them previously on that label but when I search the archives all I can find is Pyramidal on Already Dead (Is there a Pyramidal cassette on IP?  Can one of the Joshes clear the air for me here please?  Haha)   Not being the first time I'm hearing Pyramidal is the main point of this paragraph-- their name is one that I recognize; one that I know I enjoy.

What could be described as chillwave has audio clips in it.   There is this Pong back and forth sound at one point which for some reason reminds me of AWOLNATION but don't ask me why-- it's one of those things you'll either hear or you won't I suppose.    But between the sounds themselves and the audio clips you will realize that, yes, this is all truly based on a circle.    And a cassette is a circle in the sense that if you listen to it from start to finish you never have to rewind or fast forward.
Another funny aspect of this cassette for me is the track "Never Eat Breakfast", which has the line of the title repeated in it quite a bit.    See... My thing is, our whole lives we're basically told that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day".    But for me, even when I'm awake before noon (To be fair, I'm usually awake by 9 am but I go to sleep late still) I'm just not hungry.   I'm a late eater.   Sometimes I don't get hungry until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.    Now, here is what I wonder.   Is breakfast something you eat before noon or just your first meal of the day?  (Burger King will decide)

I enjoy listening to music to the extent that you become familiar with an artist and find more than one cassette by them that you like, but when you can also pull these bits out of them like about breakfast it just makes it feel that much more personal-- I don't know, I just relate to this probably more than I rightfully should and probably more than other people would whether or not they eat breakfast.    But yeah, put this on, lounge around or be active but just most importantly let it put you in a good mood.

$5 // Edition of 60 //

Cassette Review: Tölva "Manudaga" (BLIGHT. Records)

Describing music as "electronic" seems to be vague since it is simply one word and there are so many different pieces of music to which it can apply, but in the case of Tölva it becomes even more vague as each song can seemingly carry its own style which can ultimately be described as "electronic" but still has its own feel.

From the start there is this intense looping that just gets stuck in my head and makes me remember everything about this cassette as soon as I hear it.    It is undeniably distinguishable.    From there, we get into these serious sort of Nine Inch Nails synth patterns, then into the world of video games (which could or could not be related to Castlevania simply because I'm watching that series on Netflix right now so it's in my head)

After a brief stint with what could be taken the movie "Bladerunner"- a real intense sci-fi sort of futuristic jam- we get taken into that serious "Law & Order" side before audio clips shine through and we move into something between an alien experience and the theme from "Doctor Who".   Since I'm not really into "Doctor Who" though I wonder if I should start referencing "Rick and Morty" there instead.

Tingling sorts of piano keys seem to close out the cassette and in some ways it takes me back to the 1980's/early 1990's, with that early computer sound feel that also recalls "Doogie Howser".   Yes, I have used these various comparison points over time to describe different pieces of music but I don't believe they've all ever been combined like this before to form some sort of super-electronic cassette but, yes, this is one of my favorite pieces of electronic music and something I would point out for anyone to listen to based on the quality.

Cassette Review: Takahiro Mukai "normcore" (Bicephalic Records)

The name Takahiro Mukai should be better known than it is.     People might recognize the name as Mukai has released a number of cassettes through various labels and a quick Bandcamp search will provide all the proof you need that this is a cassette you should have in your collection (along with the others)    Typically, I stumble upon cassettes by Takahiro Mukai only after they are sold out so I've been able to stream the music but I don't always get the cassette experience (Though this would be my second cassette review for Takahiro Mukai)

The music of Takahiro Mukai is not easily described and that is for good reason.   You simply don't build the type of cassette collection that Mukai has by sounding like everyone else.   Electronic loops bring forth songs and patterns, the likes of which you may have never heard before.   I imagine there was a time when the drum machine was first invented and people would hear it thinking "That sounds like drums but different... it's not drums, but it is"   A lot of what you can hear within "normcore" can make you think similarly: This is but it isn't; it's more advanced.

Do you hear that rhythm which starts on Side B?   It grows and has this sort of ticking feel to it.   I feel like it resembles some sort of advanced version of a grandfather clock, such as what the Apple Watch is to an old time pocket watch.    It is the ticking of time running out on what people think of as electronic looping music.    The sounds you've heard before are about to be replaced by something completely new as every time Takahiro Mukai creates a track it's like taking a sneak peak into what the future will be like.

Whether this would be your first time or your tenth time (or more) listening to Takahiro Mukai, there is no better time to start than the present and there is no better place than right now.    Though the music can be described as instrumental, electronic and looping it still stands out among other music with similar labels and for that you do not have to be a fan of those tags to enjoy this-- the music simply defies all preconceived notions and should be enjoyed by all ears.  

"normcore" is currently sold out on cassette but can be streamed/downloaded by going to the Bicephalic Bandcamp page here:

Cassette Review: DJ DJ Tanner "ICE AT 1991" (Personal Archives)

I've always been aware of DJ DJ Tanner- at least since I started Raised by Gypsies, that is to say- though I don't believe I've written a review of the music.    A play on the name of a character from "Full House", I always thought it would be funny to see a duo between DJ DJ Tanner and Tanner Garza known as "DJ DJ Tanner Tanner Garza", which as I type it out has likely happened.    Much like all good music in the world though, it takes someone like Personal Archives to release music by DJ DJ Tanner before I finally decide to write that review.   (Side Note: You have no idea how music I listen to, enjoy and don't review simply because of time constraints)

DJ DJ Tanner does not have a sound that is easy to put into words because in a lot of ways this music draws from every sound.   And I don't mean that in a "Bro, my influences are so vast I can't even begin to try and explain them to you" way-- it literally seems to have bits and pieces of every genre mixed into it at some point.   You see, DJ DJ Tanner has what are either audio clips or actual bits of music spliced together to form his songs and it makes for this weirdo rock, which I enjoy because I, myself, am weird.

Sometimes the clips or originals are fed through as they would normally sound and other times they are slowed down or otherwise manipulated.    The closest artist I can think of to compare this with is Erases Eraser simply because it has that idea of picking up scraps and fragments and combining them to form something new and amazing.    It's the same sort of concept as Erases Eraser but the deliver is different somehow, which just means both EE and DJ DJ Tanner remain in their own classification.

From those "Keep Their Head Ringin" beats by Dr. Dre to the slowed down sound of a 1950's rock n roll song (Think "Teen Angel" or "Why must I be a teenager in love", that sort of thing), DJ DJ Tanner has musical tidbits chopped up and reattached at the hip to form something that is original and innovative.   Let's face it, if you're looking for the next Nickelback or Creed you're on the wrong website.    Though to be fair, as we close in on the end of Side B of this cassette, there are beats and horns which remind me of The Tribe so I can give you that somewhat straightforward comparison.

"ICE AT 1991" can be purchased on cassette via Personal Archives for $6, in an edition of 50, by clicking:

Cassette Review: Hey Exit "Slow Names 4: The Bitter Scent of Light"

Recently I took a break from writing.   I took a break from life.   I suppose you could call it a "vacation" of sorts, but then again you and I might have different views of what a "vacation" is because I wasn't off having fun or spending time with people I like.   No, my story is for another day, but the time that this site spent in silence was a nice way to sort of reset a lot of what has already been done.    To that extent, I am no longer counting how many cassettes I have reviewed by Hey Exit, I am simply listening to this one as if it is the first time.

In the time that I've held onto this cassette it has since sold out on the Hey Exit Bandcamp.    You could blame me if you're reading this and wanted a cassette for not being more timely in my review, but I could throw those words right back at you because it's not like I haven't been doing everything in my control these past few years to scream "Listen to Hey Exit" at you.

The things that I've always enjoyed about Hey Exit are on this cassette and I think the true test of an artist is how well they maintain over time.    Songs that feel like songs but fragments at the same time, generated by guitar rattles and riffs that are somewhere between that abandoned planet sci-fi feel (For some reason it makes me think of old sci-fi movies like "The Phantom Planet", but not that band) and they just have this intensity, this feel of being rather serious-- stern.

But what I mean by holding up over time is relevant on different levels.   First off, you want to be able to listen to music right now, as it is being heard by your ears for the first time, and then again years from now and not grow tired of it.    At the same time, you also want to be able to hear something from an artist and not think "Oh, this again".   I always like to imagine someone who plays a tuba and bangs a snare drum.   Sure, it might be good for one cassette worth of music, but how many cassettes do you listen to before it gets tiresome?

I have this bad habit- and as someone who writes about music I shouldn't have it- where I listen to an artist, find what I believe to be their best work and then don't listen to anything they put out after that.    I could name at least a half dozen bands who I have done that with and it is one of those things I'm almost ashamed to admit-- some of my favorite bands seem frozen in time, my unwillingness to listen to their new offerings.

Through a lot of physical pain, I have found myself stretching.   Striking a pose and holding it in hopes of healing my neck or wrist.    Through emotional pain, I have found myself reflecting a lot.   Trying to rid myself of my past and focus on what needs to be done moving forward.    I can't change yesterday but I can make tomorrow better, right?   Whether you consider these to be attributes of "yoga" (which I do not) or meditation (which I also do not), the fact remains I can listen to Hey Exit at these peaceful times.     This is a realization I have now that I suppose I have always found comfort in this music so I will continue to cling to it, like a pile of blankets on a cold winter night.

While this cassette is sold out it can be streamed for free and/or downloaded for $2 by clicking here.